Four years of band life can take its toll

By Mark McGowan

When I first heard in December I was going to have a column this semester, I made a pledge to myself to keep this space timely and relevant.

I didn’t want to write a “stream of consciousness” column every week. I wanted mine to be more newsy. More important. Something that would make people think.

But I’m taking a day off, although this will make you think in the end.

Twice in the past week, I’ve brushed my long locks back and hit the stage standing behind my keyboard with a black guitar strapped around my torso.

That’s right, Friday column fans, Marquitos plays in a rock band and goes totally wild when he’s doing it. He cranks the amps up to 10, jumps around frantically like his life depends on it, becomes short of breath, sweats like a pig and loses his voice trying to sing over the din of the band without a microphone.

You’ll never know what it’s like to play in a band unless you actually do it. I’ve been at it four years and it’s a lot different than I expected.

Being in a band is a lot of hard work and really stressful. With lots of minds all trying to create one sound, things can get a little sidetracked. What if the singer likes fuzz guitar and the guitarist hates it? It’s a sure bet the singer’s not going to hear fuzz. Might be trouble.

A band takes up almost too much time—one has to practice individually after working out the parts from an actual recording and then go to band rehearsals, many of which end up in shouting matches.

If the band becomes successful, you never have a weekend night to yourself. Plus, while the going and gigging is tough, you have to carry your own equipment as well as setting it up and breaking it down.

And of course, musicians never get to dance. Sniffff.

But Wednesday, I discovered the real reason I like being in a rock group. You become so close to the other band folks that the word “group” is incredibly accurate.

It’s like this: my band had a Valentine’s Day gig at a bar in Rockford, so I left NIU with my bassist brother around 1 p.m. Our guitarist lives in Rockford, so there was no trouble making contact with him.

Unfortunately, our drummer goes to school in Chicago and our singer does the same in Lansing, Michigan. Always dedicated to the music, they were planning to drive to Rockford to rock the night away. Who would’ve expected the snow?

To make a long story short, it took our singer five—count ‘em, five—hours to drive from the Loop to O’Hare. He got stuck in the express lanes and couldn’t get off to our drummer’s exit to pick him up. Anyway, they never made it.

We did the show without them by substituting our drummer’s brother (who’s also a drummer) and had our guitarist sing the lead vocals. It was interesting—not great—but it worked.

Anyway, I spent the entire night worrying about our singer. Nobody knew where he was until about 2:30 a.m. It was a scary thing.

I can see this is rambling and going nowhere, but I really felt close to those guys last night even though they were miles away and in places unknown.

So who said rock music is corrupting our youth? Not me.